Bellarmine College Preparatory held its Hall of Fame ceremony the evening of April 1, recognizing five distinguished alumni.
Those honored, and their respective categories, were: Michael Blach, Class of 1981 (Business); Anthony Saglimbeni, M.D., Class of 1981 (Science and Medicine); Father John Baumann, S.J., Class of 1956 (Public Service); Dave Gaggero, Class of 1994 (Athletics); and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Class of 1988 (Humanities and Fine Arts).
“My experience at Bellarmine has challenged me to be more aware of social justice issues,” said Blach during his acceptance remarks. “This school has helped me to be the man I am, and the man I aspire to be.” As a community leader, the president and CEO of Blach Construction has been involved with a number of service organizations and nonprofits, including Rotary Club of San Jose, Sacred Heart Community Service, Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, Catholic Charities, and Santa Clara University. Blach noted that his company annually donates ten percent of its profits to charities.
Among the people thanked by Saglimbeni, founder of South Bay Sports and Prevention Medicine Associates, were his patients. “They teach me to be human and teach me to be a better physician,” he said. He also cited three components of his Bellarmine education that continue to play important roles in his life: “Relationships, opportunities, and service,” and he added that Bellarmine ignited “that flame in me to serve.” Saglimbeni has traveled to Cuba with the USA Field Hockey team, served the Diocese of San Jose, and has been the team physician for Bellarmine, Presentation High School, Santa Clara University, the San Francisco 49ers, and the San Francisco Giants.
After graduating from Bellarmine, Father John Baumann, S.J., entered the Society of Jesus. In 1972, he founded PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing). Its mission is to develop leaders through faith institutions who exercise their power to build a more just and equitable society. Baumann gave credit to his Jesuit education, which began at Bellarmine, for leading him “to pursue a ministry that changed my life forever.” Working with some 1,200 religious congregations from 35 different traditions, PICO has a strong record of bringing an organized and strategic faith voice into fights over issues critical to working people.
At Bellarmine, Dave Gaggero won a total of six individual CCS championships, and seven relay championships in swimming. He was a member of four swimming and three water polo championship teams, and a state water polo championship team. “I learned so many life lessons in the pool and in the classroom,” Gaggero said in his acceptance remarks, adding that his Bellarmine experience set “a great foundation for who I am today.” His good works include helping under-resourced communities in Oakland, and now his home of Atlanta, to have access to top-notch swimming programs.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen acknowledged many Bellarmine faculty members for having shaped his literary career. “I have to credit Bellarmine with so many things … to this day I credit my belief in social justice in all realms to my Jesuit education.” Nguyen, the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, has authored four books. His novel, “The Sympathizer,” won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. His book, “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” was a finalist in nonfiction for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.
More than 300 guests, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and former mayor Tom McEnery – both of whom are Bellarmine alumni – were on hand to witness the Hall of Fame inductions on the Bellarmine campus, with the awards ceremony taking place in the Main Stage Theatre of the Sobrato Center for Humanities and the Arts, followed by a dinner in the Samuel A. Liccardo Center. Longtime Bellarmine faculty member Tom Alessandri, Class of 1969, was the emcee; and the awards were presented by the school’s president, Chris Meyercord, alumnus from the Class of 1988.
The Bellarmine Hall of Fame is presented by the Office of Alumni Relations. For more information, visit online at www.bcp.org/BHOF.